How have sheep existed in the wild without someone to shear them?


I saw a post about a sheep that escaped owners/shearing for years and its wool was out of control. Have sheep ever existed in the wild without someone to shear them?

In: 169

Probably not in their current form.

I mean, the sheep you see in farms that are raised for wool, those have been bred over centuries for just that purpose. I don’t think any “wild sheep” would naturally develop that kind of thick coat of wool by themselves.

They don’t.

Domesticated sheep have been bred to never shed their seasonal coat and continue growing wool all year.

In the wild they’d shed this regularly to avoid overheating in the summer months.

Domesticated sheep that do escape will eventually overgrown and die.

Wild sheep lose their wool naturally. Even a lot of domestic sheep do not need to be sheered. It is only the sheep which have been bread for long thick wool that requires help from humans to shear them.

We bred sheep to be like this. Wool was a highly valuable resource; large parts of both the english agricultural revolution and then the industrial revolution were centered on wool production.

The ancestoral sheep still exists; it’s notably goat like

Domesticated sheep were bred to be that way for their wool. Sheep are Ovis and other species of that families like Bighorn Sheep, Dall Sheep, Mouflon, etc all have horn and a normal coat. Don’t don’t have those issues.

If a wild sheep ever developed the genes that gave it a wool coat so thick that they couldn’t see or move, wolves would have seen the end to that genetic line real quick.

Part of natural selection is also culling genes that are harmful to a species survival.

There are several breeds of sheep with hair rather than wool. The Barbados or Black Belly Sheep is one of those breeds. My sister in Arizona has a small flock. In the winter they may grow a layer of wool under the hair for insulation, buts it’s not commercially useful.
Most of hers are sold for meat.

Sheep are domesticated – the species as a whole has been tamed and bred specifically to be what they are. They are not wild animals, so escaped sheep can’t really survive without coat maintenance. They can live, sure, but as you read, their coat gets out of control to the point they are matted and can’t move or can’t see.

They don’t.

Domesticated sheep create a lot more wool than any wild breed. Wild breeds also naturally shed

They are a prime example of selective breeding. People wanted wool, so only the fluffiest sheep bred. Come the modern day, domesticated sheep are thick cotton balls with legs.

Wild sheep shed like almost every animal with fur. The ones we have are selectively bred to produce more wool, faster and not shed it.

Because they weren’t this shaggy yet in the wild before they became domesticated. The modern day super-shaggy breeds of sheep that need constant sheering are the result of humans making them like that through artificial selection.

Imagine you’re a human who just figured out how to sew clothes from the hair of that shaggy animal over there so you domesticate it. You like the ones that grow more hair, so those are the ones you tend to breed.

Fast forward 10,000 years and now all the sheep have lost the gene that makes their body hair stop growing. Humans like that mutation and favor it, but the sheep can no longer survive on their own because of that mutation.

As for the technical thing going on, a mammal’s hair follicles are on a slow cycle that toggles back and forth between growth and rest modes. During rest mode the hair doesn’t get longer and it cannot recover from something randomly breaking it off like brushing against a rock or in the case of humans, getting snagged on a bit of clothing. During growth mode it can. The ratio of how much time is spent in each mode decides how long, on average, the hair tends to get before a roll of the dice causes it to get ripped short by *something*. Human genes tend to make hair follicles on the head configured to spend the majority of its time in “growth mode”, while it builds hair follicles on the arms, legs, and naughty places that tends to spend far less of its time in “growth” mode. Thus why you don’t need a haircut for your arms like you do for your head.

Selective breeding of sheep caused us to make their body hair get configured to be stuck in “growth” mode more of the time, like how our head-hair works.

shear luck?

Sorry, that was baa-a-a-a-ad.

I’ll see myself out.

Growing up, we had primitive sheep (Mouflon & American Blackbelly), and they shed their wool. We brushed it off of them, or collected hair bundles that they rubbed off on fencing or bushes.

Domestic sheep have been bred to not shed their wool, and they will continually grow wool until they die. Either the wool gets so cumbersome that they can’t escape predators and they’re eaten, or they die of heatstroke, or from infection as the uncared for wool’s weight damaged their skin to the point of tearing.

I saw a article where a domestic one had escaped but the wool was so matted from the wild that animals couldn’t bite through to reach its neck

Sheep were selectively bred to have more wool. They cannot live in the wild… for the most part. There are likely certain environments where they could survive, and over time, their offspring could adapt and move. But the current domesticated breed of sheep were in human care for many generations and wouldn’t do well on their own.

The book *A Short History of the World According to Sheep* by Sally Coulthard is an amazing look at, well , how sheep have helped form human history. Highly recommended.

Soay sheep naturally shed their wool ([]( They are a fairly “primitive” breed, but are domesticated.

Soay is not particularly easy to get to though.